I hope this material is of interest ... I am very reluctant to receive any acknowledgement, and I much prefer that you alone take the credit, if any, for this particular contribution.
With this note, I received an envelope containing a collection of black and white film negatives in two sizes, '116' (image 2.5 x 4.25 inches) and possibly '105' (image 55 mm x 85mm or about 2 x 3.5 inches). Each piece has just one image on it, but they have numbers handwritten on them that appear to group them into rolls numbered 76 to 141, with gaps.
All of them document tours of the elevated railways in Manhattan in about 1938.
Here I will show the eight images of roll 76 and two of roll 77, both '116' film. This format was used in Brownie cameras and other snapshot cameras with a fixed focus and exposure. It usually had eight images per roll. The only processing I did was to choose a reasonable light-dark balance for each image.
Roll 76 documents a ride downtown on the Sixth Avenue El. The photographer left the train at a few stations to take pictures. Roll 77, three images (one very blurry), documents a ride back uptown, maybe immediately following 76. Click each image to enlarge.
76-1. 53rd St looking east between Eighth and Seventh Avenues.
The Sixth Ave El ran down Columbus and Ninth Avenues and then east on 53rd St three blocks to Sixth Avenue. The switches evident at the bottom of the image are from a third track in the vicinity of the Eighth Ave station. The point of view, the front window of a train, would have been steady only when the train was stopped at that station.
76-2. Sixth Avenue looking downtown from 50th St station. Rockefeller Center is on the left.
Pipe railings. Crook lampposts. Wood plank platform. The narrow two-track el left open sky over the sidewalks and over part of the roadway on each side.
Recent art deco buildings on the left. Some of the buildings on the right, like the one with the 'PETTIT' sign, are about as old as the el, sixty years in 1938.
I cannot identify the thin structure passing over the el in the distance.
The type of structure in Sixth Avenue was different from all the other elevated railways in New York. The primary longitudinal support was a truss along each side, which you can see past the station platform, instead of stringer beams under each rail.
76-3. Sixth Avenue looking uptown from the downtown platform of 23rd St station.
From Google Streetview I can identify the large building on the right as being on the northeast corner.
The footbridge is puzzling. An image of this station from 1878 shows that it was not original. How important was it to allow passengers to cross to the other side? Would passengers prefer to go up and over a footbridge rather than cross Sixth Avenue at street level? Someone must have thought so.
Advertising posters under the platform were only found on the el, never the subway.
77-3. Sixth Avenue looking south from the uptown platform at 8th Street station. Up ahead the el curves left into 3rd St to get to West Broadway.
The buildings along the east side of Sixth Avenue, on the left, were removed in the late 1920s to permit construction of the Independent Subway, which is wider than Sixth Avenue in the area of West 4th Street station.
Most of the buildings on the right side are still there.
76-4. West Broadway looking downtown from Franklin St station.
Google Streetview shows that the large white building on the left and the art deco building on the right are still there at Worth St, two blocks south of Franklin St.
The structure in West Broadway was more typical of Manhattan els, with the support structure below rail level. There were stretches of third track south of this point.
The vintage wooden house between the tracks has the control levers for the switches, visible through its windows. The two lampposts on the right have very different tops. One or both needed parts replaced over the years.
76-5 and 76-6. Trinity Place looking downtown from Cortlandt St station.
I was able to identify this two ways. First, in 76-5, the building a block ahead on the right, with a prominent cornice, is still standing at the southwest corner of Liberty Street. Second, in 76-6 the end of Trinity Place at Morris St is marked by the tall building straight ahead in the distance.
The els had semaphore signals to the end. They were lower quadrant signals in which a low position meant clear and a horizontal position meant stop. The double signal here shows the main or straight route over the diverging route. As you can see from the position of the switch itself, the straight route is clear.
76-7. Trinity Place looking downtown from the uptown platform at Rector Street station.
A block away is the end of Trinity Place at Morris St. Some Sixth Avenue trains terminated here, and some continued to South Ferry by going around to the right of the building seen straight ahead at Morris St.
The footbridge led into an arcade in a building on the left that led to Broadway, one block to the left, all under cover.
The under-platform ad, center, was for 'Old Drum Brand Blended Whiskey'.
76-8. Trinity Place looking uptown from Rector Street station. On the right is the graveyard behind Trinity Church (which faces Broadway, one block to the right).
I haven't scanned any more of the negatives yet. More to come!